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Abercrombie takes all but 4 of 51 districts

The ex-congressman loses Kauai but is able to dominate Oahu and beat Hannemann

By Derrick DePledge

LAST UPDATED: 10:34 p.m. HST, Sep 20, 2010


» Some vote tallies and the district-by-district maps are incorrect. The information was based on Office of Elections results released Monday morning, but the data were updated later in the day. The tallies have been corrected online at The updated changes do not affect the outcome of any race or the district-by-district breakdowns.


Former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie tapped into a reservoir of support among traditional Democrats in his primary victory on Saturday but also did remarkably well in regions that often favor independents and conservatives.

Abercrombie crushed former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann 60 percent to 38 percent statewide and took Oahu, the Big Island and Maui while narrowly losing on Kauai. A Star-Advertiser analysis of the primary election by state House district found that Abercrombie won all but four districts: Wailuku and Kahului on Maui and Lihue and Koloa on Kauai.

Abercrombie, who represented urban Honolulu in Congress for two decades, dominated on Oahu. Some of his largest margins were in districts in Hawaii Kai, Pacific Heights, Kailua and his home in Manoa.

Hannemann, who served as Honolulu mayor for the past six years, lost every district on his home turf and only managed to take a handful of precincts in Pearl City, Kapolei and Kahuku.

Voter turnout was 42.8 percent of registered voters. A record 44.3 percent of voters cast ballots by absentee mail or early walk-in voting.

Most voters chose to participate in the Democratic primary, with only 16.6 percent taking Republican ballots.

Abercrombie told Democrats yesterday at the party's traditional Unity Breakfast at the Japanese Cultural Center that he hopes his campaign will help revive the party.

"People have cast their vote as an act of faith and as an act of trust," he said. "An act of faith that you're paying attention to them, that they count for something. And an act of trust that you'll act on behalf -- not just of their interest -- but on behalf of the community and the people of Hawaii."

Hannemann, who also spoke to Democrats at the breakfast, was conciliatory and promised to help Abercrombie and his lieutenant governor running mate, Brian Schatz, in the November general election. Abercrombie and Hannemann also made an appearance on Kauai yesterday and are scheduled for stops on the Big Island today.

Hannemann described Abercrombie as "every bit the warrior, the fighter that he's been all his public life."

"The people have spoken," he said. "Momma and Daddy always told me, 'You respect a fair process.' And that's what happened last night. The people of Hawaii have spoken."

Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, the Republican candidate for governor, and his lieutenant governor running mate, Lynn Finnegan, held a news conference yesterday challenging Abercrombie to a series of six debates. He suggested the topics would be jobs and the economy, education, the state budget and spending, native Hawaiian issues, health and human services, and energy.

"The issues that I'm talking about are too important to have it done in the same manner that I've seen in the primary," Aiona said. "You can't get comprehensive discussion and substantive discussion on 30-second sound bites and 60-second sound bites. It's going to have to be more engaging."

Abercrombie's campaign advisers said there would be debates with Aiona but would not commit to a series or any specific topics. "Neil looks forward to engaging with the lieutenant governor in the general election," said Laurie Au, a campaign spokeswoman.

While Abercrombie and Aiona looked to November, many Democrats were still trying yesterday to put Abercrombie's staggering victory into perspective.

Abercrombie consistently led Hannemann by single digits in public and private polling, but support for Hannemann dropped in late August after the backlash over a Hannemann flier that asked voters to compare where the candidates were born, their wives and their education. Many of Hannemann's political allies privately appealed to the campaign not to go negative after the reaction to the flier, several sources said yesterday.

They argued that the polls suggested many of the voters who left Hannemann went into the undecided column, not to Abercrombie, so there was a chance Hannemann might recover with a retooled message. There was also a concern that a negative campaign could damage the Democratic nominee in the election against Aiona in November.

Most analysts privately predicted before Saturday that Abercrombie would win by 8 to 10 percentage points -- not 22 percentage points -- even though a private poll had Hannemann down by 14 points and a public poll taken for the online news service Civil Beat had the gap at 17 points.

Abercrombie, in an interview, credited his grass-roots outreach and his message of change for his success.

"Mufi's difficulty was that he never really had a message as to why he wanted to be governor," he said.

Abercrombie said Hannemann made a persuasive defense of his record as mayor but never adequately explained why he should move up to Washington Place.

"He told the voters tactically what he would do, and referenced his being mayor and the things that he did, but strategically he never gave them a reason to think why he should be there in the first place.

"I can't remember ever hearing from him why he wanted to be governor and what the rationale for it was."

Kevin Lopez, field director for the Hannemann campaign, said traditional Democrats "almost universally" voted for Abercrombie. He said the message that worked well for the former mayor at the city level did not translate to the primary.

"We just were not able to get people that consistently follow city issues -- Mufi's track record, whether they agreed with it or not -- we weren't able to get them into voting in a Democratic primary," he said. "Our message about the ability to manage, the ability to get things done, working with the other side, working with divergent parties, that plays well on the city side.

"But it doesn't play well in a Democratic primary."

Randy Perreira, executive director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, which endorsed Hannemann, likened the primary to the division among Democrats over Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the party's presidential primary two years ago.

"You had two good candidates, and Democrats were going to make choices," he said. "Just like then, unions made choices, but the whole point was winning on Nov. 2."

He said Democrats showed loyalty to Abercrombie because of his record and experience.

"Our challenge now is to make sure we're all on the same page," he said.

Dylan Nonaka, executive director of the state GOP, said a share of Hannemann voters might consider choosing Aiona over liberal Abercrombie. He also believes Aiona is less polarizing than either of the two Democrats, which could also help him compete.

"When it comes to Neil and Mufi, either they like you or they hate you," he said of voters.

Star-Advertiser Assistant City Editor Andy Yamaguchi contributed to this story.

Correction: Voter turnout was 42.8 percent, higher than the 2006 and 2008 primaries. Absentee turnout was 44.3 percent and 16.6 percent took out Republican ballots. A previous version of this story used figures that were later updated by the Office of Elections.



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